MOST Irish employees access social media while at work, spending just under an hour per working day on sites like Facebook and Twitter, according to one of the country's largest law firms.
Dublin-based solicitors William Fry warned that failing to grasp this and establish a realistic plan for social-media usage left companies at risk from potential lawsuits and loss of business.
Its new study found that 80pc of all Irish employees access social media at work, even though 40pc of companies have a ban on this. Most employees access these sites at work through their own devices like smartphones, rather than through office computers.
This means that banning staff from accessing social media at work is not practical, and companies should instead focus on setting realistic limits.
The study says that just under half of Irish employers do not have a social-media policy in place and this leaves them open to risks like online bullying of staff and the loss of social media-based client connections.
Six out of 10 employees have made work-related connections through their personal social media accounts, particularly on professional networking site LinkedIn, but only one-third of employers are aware of this.
These contacts can be lost when employees leave a company if their employer does not have a policy in place to manage this, like extending "non-solicitation" clauses in employment contracts – which ban an employee from looking for business from contacts made in the job they have left – to include contacts made online.
Employers can also be held responsible for bullying by co-workers on social media sites.
William Fry says setting out appropriate employee conduct online will be useful in defending against lawsuits.
Corporate brands are also at risk and companies should be mindful of what is being said about them online. The law firm said just under 40pc of employees said they would do nothing if they came across negative comments about their employer on social media.
Several Irish companies have had to manage the impact of heavy online criticism. A recent Facebook post against Dublin nightclub Madison by a wheelchair-user who said he was denied access to the premises was shared and liked by thousands, prompting the company to issue a public apology.